Workshop Addresses Challenges Facing Psychologically Wounded Warriors

Posted: May 27, 2011 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: May 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

By Leah Kerkman Fogarty

Nearly 100 attendees from across multiple disciplines gathered at Mason last week to learn about how they can better treat and manage the psychological trauma of service members and veterans.

The one-day symposium was hosted by Mason’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) and the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program.

In its second year, the workshop “Promising Practices for Healing Psychological Trauma of Service Members, Veterans, Family, and Community” was aimed at strengthening the health care community’s response to the needs of returning military personnel and their families in order to heal psychological issues, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), sustained in combat.

“The event’s success was largely due to its emphasis on improving access to quality care by creating a well-trained professional workforce,” says Cathleen Lewandowski, chair of the Social Work Department in CHHS and one of the workshop organizers.

“It contributed to the dissemination of promising practices to treat PTSD and TBI,” Lewandowski adds, “and provided participants a unique opportunity to hear from nationally recognized providers and researchers. Continuity of care was stressed through a model for interdisciplinary care and by creating networking opportunities for civilian and military providers.”

From groundbreaking new ways to treat PTSD and TBI to how to navigate the complex Veterans Affairs (VA) system, the workshop also offered solutions, resources and hope for those who help psychologically wounded service members and veterans.

Among the speakers and panel discussion participants were:

  • Karen Brown from Brain Injury Services.
  • Tom DeGraba, deputy director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md.
  • Marilyn Kraus, medical director of the Neurobehaviorial/Traumatic Brain Injury Service at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
  • Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell and his wife, Shannon Maxwell, who run Sempermax, an organization devoted to working with wounded warriors. After suffering a severe penetrating TBI in Iraq in 2004, Maxwell was instrumental in establishing the Marine Wounded Warrior Program.
  • Belleruth Naparstek, a licensed social worker.
  • Lolita O’Donnell from the Defense Centers of Excellence.
  • Mark Wiederhold and Dennis Wood from the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, Calif.

Lewandowski plans to hold another workshop next spring to continue to bring together different health care providers to address the difficulties facing our service members and veterans suffering from psychological trauma. Additional information can be found on the Social Work Department’s website.

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